North American Scholar

WESTGATE, Reginald Isaac Wilfred

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1904-09-14
  • Born City: German East Africa
  • Born State/Country: now Tanzania
  • Parents: T. B. R. Westgate D.D. & wife, missionaries.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1988-07-28
  • Death City: Chatham
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Married: Sheila Margaret Dann, 11 July 1934.
  • Education:

    B.A. U. Manitoba, 1924; study at U. Toronto, 1924-5; B.A. Oxford (Balliol Coll.) (Rhodes Scholar), 1930; M.A., 1932; Ph.D. Harvard, 1935.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. class. U. West. Ontario, 1928-30; Harvard, 1930-5; class, mstr. Phillips Acad. (Andover, MA), 1935-44; head class, dept. Brooks Sch. (N. Andover, MA), 1944-9; hdmstr. St. Bernard's Sch. (New York), 1949-71.

  • Dissertation:

    "De casibus indogermanicis, praecipue sociativo, in lingua Graeca ab Homero usque ad Thucydidem, summotis" (Harvard, 1935).

  • Publications:

    "The Text of Valla's Translation of Thucydides," TAPA 67 (1936) 240-51; "Obscurum per obscurius: The Greek Text behind Valla's Translation of Thucydides," TAPA 69 (1938) 1; "Juvenal and Swift," with P. L. MacKendrick, CJ 37 (1941-2) 468-82; "Terence, Andria," trans, with Rogers V. Scudder, in Classics in Translation, 2:38-59.

  • Notes:

    Westgate entered Balliol College in 1925 as a Canadian Rhodes Scholar; among his Rhodes classmates in Balliol were the classicists Mason Hammond (who remained a close friend and was best man at his wedding) and Louis MacKay, also a Canadian and long a professor at Berkeley. He read both Honour Moderations and Greats. He left Oxford in 1928, returning in 1930 to take his degree (a pass degree, since he was overstanding for honors). He rowed in the Balliol 1st VIII and toured Europe with the university ice hockey team. At Harvard he began work on Einhard's life of Charlemagne under E. K. Rand, but the Classics Department discouraged this as insufficiently classical. Westgate then turned to Joshua Whatmough for tuition and wrote his dissertation in comparative philology. Early on he taught at Harvard and Radcliffe when both were separate institutions, but his career was primarily that of classics teacher in well-known boys' schools. He chose this route, he said, because he was convinced that boys could be educated to arrive at college with better training than his students at Harvard demonstrated. For many years he was headmaster of St. Bernard's School in New York, where he raised the enrollment by 50 percent and the faculty by over 100 percent; he was also a trustee of several other schools and served for 12 years on the Chatham public school board.His most important publication concerned Lorenzo Valla, the Renaissance humanist who first translated Thucydides (a Latin version, 1452). Not a few of Valla's expressions diverge from the meaning of the Greek in preserved manuscripts; thus it is inferred that he was using an unknown or lost MS as the basis for his version. For example, at 3.49.2 Valla has priorem where the older MSS have either δευτέρας or ἐτέρας, and this justifies reading the quite necessary προτέρας with some later MSS (the Athenians set out to pursue "the previous ship"). However, Valla's original translation has never actually been printed. All editors who said they were reproducing his translation (beginning with Parthenius, Treviso, ca. 1483, but including above all Stephanus, Geneva, 1564) edited and changed it; therefore the many citations of "Valla" in the apparatus critici of Thucydides' editors, usually taken from Stephanus, may not reproduce what Valla actually wrote. Westgate obtained photostats of the archetype of Valla's work (Cod. Vat. Lat. 1801; other derivative copies exist). He apparently planned to study Valla's Latin text wherever it differs from our MSS and draw conclusions about what Greek text he was using; but his teaching duties did not allow him to complete his project. This work must still be done and may well be a valuable contribution to the history of the text of the greatest Greek historian. As headmaster of St. Bernard's, Westgate was remembered with admiration, even awe. Handsome, physically powerful, with penetrating gray-blue eyes and a gentle voice that nonetheless carried instant conviction, he gave a lifetime to classical studies and that moral training which marks the true educator. He continued to be an athlete in retirement through sailing and riding; a skilled beekeeper, he was also an enthusiastic fruit gardener and an accomplished cellist.

  • Sources:

    Mason Hammond, American Oxonian 75 (1988) 279-81; NYTimes (29 July 1988) A24; R.I.W.W. In Memoriam (New York, 1989).

    Memoirs: Cattle boat to Oxford: the education of R.I.W. Westgate : edited from his letters, diaries & papers, ed. Sheila Margaret Westgate (New York: Walker, 1994)

  • Author: Mortimer Chambers